The Connecticut Education Association says it plans on filing an injunction against the state to prevent Gov. Dannel P. Malloy from carrying out his executive order, which cuts education funding in October by about $135 million.
The city of Torrington and the town of Brooklyn — which rank high in levels of poverty — have already agreed to act as plaintiffs in any potential lawsuit. Other plaintiffs are expected to join in the coming weeks, according to the largest teacher’s union in the state.
The Torrington City Council agreed to join the lawsuit Monday, the same day they received a check for $1.2 million from the state. Typically that check would have been around $8 million, according to the association.
If the state continues to operate under an executive order and Torrington is forced to use of all of its reserves to continue to operate, then it would still face an $11 million gap in funding in its local budget.
“We have already taken cost-saving measures including delaying the beginning of school, implementing a hiring freeze that resulted in reductions of services, and reducing office hours in the city’s recreation department,” Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone said. “With additional cuts, vital resources and critical services that our residents rely upon are all in jeopardy of being drastically cut or eliminated.”
The town of Brooklyn voted to join the potential injunction last week.
Brooklyn currently receives more than $7 million in education funding; under the governor’s plan, the town would receive slightly over $4 million.
“Our small town can’t afford any further cuts, let alone the loss of nearly $3 million in education funding,” Brooklyn First Selectman Rick Ives said. “These cuts would result in the loss of critical educational programs and resources in our city, significant teacher layoffs throughout the current school year, and increased taxes for all residents.”
Torrington and Brooklyn are just two of more than 52 cities and towns that fall within the bottom 40 percent of towns in wealth, and which are not Alliance Districts and do not have the funds to cover the cuts to the Education Cost Sharing funding proposed by the governor, according to CEA.
Connecticut has been operating under an executive order since July 1 because it’s been unable to approve a two-year state budget. The House is expected to convene today to sustain Malloy’s veto of a Republican budget proposal that passed with the help of eight Democratic legislators.
Under Malloy’s revised executive order that went into effect on Oct. 1, 85 communities have seen the first quarter of their Education Cost Sharing grant eliminated while another 54 communities are seeing reductions and 30 will receive the same amount of funding as last year.
“The governor’s ECS cuts are dangerous and would be devastating for students, parents, teachers, and communities across the state,” CEA President Sheila Cohen said. “They violate state statutes and the state’s constitutional obligation to provide adequate education to public school students.”
According to the Malloy administration, without a budget in place there is no Education Cost Sharing formula and the governor has to determine the distribution of the state’s remaining funds — without the authority to collect taxes — as he sees fit.
“We could not agree more with the urgency of the situation for our schools, students, and educators,” Malloy spokeswoman Meg Green said. “As Governor Malloy has said many times, the Executive Order Resource Allocation Plan was not his preference.”
She said it’s incumbent upon state leaders to come together and reach and agreement.
Meanwhile, “The governor remains committed to safeguarding funding to the greatest extent possible in communities with concentrated pockets of poverty and the highest student needs,” Green said.
The Connecticut Education Association isn’t the only organization questioning the legality of Malloy’s executive order.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, renewed his request to Attorney General George Jepsen for an opinion on several aspects of the executive order.
“Since the governor has now vetoed the legislature’s budget, it is imperative that lawmakers know whether or not his executive order is in fact legal, or if these changes violate statutory mandates which would require legislative approval,” Fasano wrote. “I believe it is extremely important that you respond to this outstanding request prior to a veto override session taking place so lawmakers have all the relevant information prior to deciding whether to allow the governor’s veto to stand, which will lead to his executive order remaining in effect.”
On August 18, Fasano asked for Jepsen’s opinion regarding Malloy’s executive authority to unilaterally reduce excess cost grants for special education, withhold funding from the Municipal Revenue Sharing program without legislative approval, and adjust the motor vehicle tax cap.
Fasano said he’s still waiting for a reply from his Aug. 18 request.
In August, Jaclyn Severance, Jepsen’s spokesperson, confirmed receipt of Fasano’s letter.
“We have received Sen. Fasano’s opinion request and will carefully consider the issues presented,” Severance wrote. “As is our practice on opinion requests involving state budgetary issues, we will seek input from all appropriate parties before coming to any conclusions. We would decline further comment at this time.”